tv Meet the Presss Press Pass NBC May 3, 2015 11:30am-11:46am EDT
this is "press pass" an ex extra "meet the press" conversation. this week on "press pass" a balancing act between resume virtues and eulogy virtues. it's in the new book "the road to character" by "new york times" kolcolumnist david brooks. welcome to "press pass." i always vau you as sort of at least for the east coast consciousness of character. you're either chronicling the moral decay of american culture or you're trying to help it. it's clearly what i felt this book is about. you feel like our character compass is a little off kilt erer. >> all of us, and i include myself. i'm not judging society from the outside. there are two sets of virtues,
the resume are the stuff we bring to the marketplace, are you a good teacher, a journalist? they are deeper inside, the things they say when you're dead if you're honest brave, capable of deep love. they're all more important. we all would rather have those. our educational system and life is about the resume ones. i found i had way more career success than i imagined i would. i was fine but i haven't achieved that. so i wanted to spend a few years figuring out how do you get a better inside? >> it's interesting when you say the first thing i thought of is my own religion the jewish religion. we share that. that is sort of -- that is the version of heaven for many jews right, your eulogy virtues. how much is there's a grounding of religion in this? >> i don't think you have to be religious to be an extremely good person. we know people who are extremely good but i do think religions help focus the mind with certain words, words that have fallen
out of favor, a word like sin which is now used in the context of desserts. we're all broken and have a tend tendency to mess things up, then you can build character that way. character is built by being humble about yourself, being totally honest about yourself, and struggling against your own weaknesses. i have a whole cast of weaknesses and all had a core weakness and they became great. for dwight eisenhower it was his anger. for the first woman in the cabinet under franklin roosevelt, she was sort of scattered. for george elliott, she was emotionally needy. and they all have this grave weakness but they spend their lifetime feeding it. by the end they were really impressive people. >> when do you discover this? is it when you have kids? is it -- or is it when you get married? when do you think the best time is for self-discover yy? >> i think it's a gradual thing. i teach and a lot of my students are 20 and they'rer certificate ersearching
for it. i'm so hungry so hungry. they train so hard to compete for college, for a job, and yet they're like anybody else they want to lead good lives. they don't have the vocabulary to do it. telephones an attempt to give my students a vocabulary. i'm not going to tell you how to become a good person but here is a way to think about that problem. >> millennial generation the selfie generation whatever you want to refer to it as on one hand it's very honest and transparent. okay, this generation is very comfortable saying look at me warts and all. at the same time the generation is accused of being too self-centered and lacking some of the humbleness you think is necessary. >> culturally we're more open, less racist, less anti-semitic less sexist. in some ways we're a little worse . that's on the level of narcissism. we asked high school seniors, are you a very important person.
12% said yes now 85% say yes. >> isn't it parents? we're raising -- i'm concerned about this the trophy for every kid. are we raising narcissist ss? >> we told kids they're wonderful in every respect. we were raised that way, too. and so we're told follow you your passion, be true to yourself. you have a little golden wonderful person inside. when george marshall was raise ed ed he was raised to think lowly of yourself. you're splendidly endowed but you're also broken. how can you fix your breaken places. >> writes a book like this was this a journey are for yourself? >> it's suppose edd to be a journey. we awed always be on the journey, but we get distracted following twitter, following this and following that and you get distracted from the journey of life. i'm trying to do it in a
nonreligious way, nonpompous way -- >> and apolitical. certainly politicians are in here. >> and i'm probably more conservative than not. if you look at the heroes dorothy day, big leftist, a great civil rights leader and a big leftist, francis perkins worked for fdr. these are deeper than politics and way more important. >> let's take a quick break. more on "the road to character: how do you build it" by david brooks.
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we're back now with david brooks. he has a new book called "the road to character." it's not a political book. a humility book. you came up with a humility code live for holiness not happiness. understand the flawed human nature. recognize human capacity to identify flaws and struggle humility is the greatest in said struggle. give me more on this. >> you look at some of the people who have really been great.
they taught themselves about their own weakness. dwight eisenhower. when when he was 9, he wanted to go trying orick-or-treating. his mother wouldn't let him. he threw a temper tantrum, hit a tree rubbed the skin off his knuckles. he said to himself, he that conquers had his own soul is he who takes the city. the most important conversation in in his life because it taught him he had a problem, his anger, his tem peer. he had to deal with that. he created this great temperament. we think of him as this cheerful guy. he was not like that. he was angry, up nights smoking, drinking throat infections, blood pressure sping ingking. he learned techniques. he hated people so he would write their names on paper and
rip them up and throw them in the garbage. that was a way to purge his hatred. how do i deal with it? today, at the end of the day, did i live up to what i hoped i would be? if i didn't, how can can i do better? >> it feels like a parenting book. any moral lesson i learned i feel it does trace back to childhood. >> i have a great quotation from a veteran in oregon. never forget what a wise person says is the least of that. it's how you act. are you considerate, are you kind are you compassionate, are you patient? that matters way more than what you say. one of the things i try to do is give living examples of people who are really great. >> who are some role models ? >> i have this assembly of
friends. i never met any of them. they're all dead. they serve as a model for me. people like francis perkins a labor activist dorothy day, a community service worker, ida and dwight eisenhower, from various races. they hold up a standard you try to live like. dorothy day lived with the poor. she built communities. just her life was transformed by her giving birth to a child. she was a reckless human being. she gave birth and had a beautiful sentence. if i created the greatest sculpt sculpture and the need to love she loved her child, the people around her and she lived the life of just loving service and you read her story and say i'm never going to be as great as
her but i'd like a little piece of that. >> i'm going to bring this to politics a little bit. society doesn't forgive a leader for moral flaws or character flaws. watching hillary clinton deny something or george w. bush you know what you don't feel you get the real answer from them. >> it's ridiculous. we all do it in our lives. people woe love you forgive it. you understand they're not perfect but i love that person unconditionally. >> but it bothers us if you don't admit it. admit your character flaw right? >> abraham lincoln a man of deep pro-found humility. could he get elected today? i think not. part of it, he wasn't good
looking enough, but partly the civil war was raging around him, hatred killing, he gives one of the greatest moral documents in american history which is not about judging, it's about stepping back and saying we're all sort of responsible for this. and that's a tremendous moral document. if he said that today the north would say we want to kill the south. his base would go crazy. >> he's caving in . of course the south would say had who is this guy to tell us, to have the moral high ground. do you sit there and lament the politician that can't admit a character flaw? do you feel we've had one to do it in modern politics? >> i lament the kind who doesn't have an honest inner voice. some candidates, they all do cheap stuff. some of them are aware. at least they have -- john mccain was like that. he would do cheap stuff. >> i put them in two categories, the ones who know who they are and are comfortable in it just off camera with you not on
camera. they do fear. >> some have an inner voice. is there something in there? a lot of them because they're so business busy, their big problem like a lot of us for a politician it's all about me. it's the big me. >> we're surrounded by me. that's the problem. we talk about parenting. a parent needs to teach humility. people around politicians are afraid to remind them to be humble. >> the nice thing about parenting, like all love you realize your value is in another person, your kids or spouse or whatever it is. the experience can transform people. if you're a politician that's the product. >> david brooks the moral compass of washington. congratulations on the book. good luck with it. that's all for our conversation today. yo